Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The New York Times posted a fascinating story Thursday about the mysterious sculpture called "Kryptos" in the courtyard at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and one short sentence really highlights barriers that existed between the intelligence agencies prior to Sep. 11, 2001.
Created by sculptor James Sanborn, Kryptos features four encoded messages that have baffled many for years. As a dedicated fan base has grown around the sculpture in trying to figure out the hidden message, three of the four had been decoded by 1999.
But in an interesting aside, journalist John Scwartz notes: "In fact, cryptographers at the National Security Agency cracked those messages in 1993, but kept the triumph to themselves."
As a piece of artwork, the sculpture's messages have nothing top secret within. Decoding it is really just a fun exercise for enthusiasts, but the fact NSA wouldn't even tell their intelligence colleagues at CIA they had the answer for six years is rather telling.
In the sad postscript to the 9/11 attacks, it was found that a wall existed between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and there was even separation between the different spy agencies themselves. As we now know, this compartmentalization of information was one of the major reasons Al Qaeda terrorists were successful in their attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"We no longer operate largely on the principle of compartmentalization, that is, sharing information based on 'need to know.' We now start from the imperative of 'responsibility to share,' in order to collaborate with and better support our intelligence consumers—from the White House to the foxhole," Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper wrote in the Wall Street Journal.